Skipper Johnathan Thurston has warned his North Queensland teammates they face a humiliating end to their NRL premiership defence if they don’t find form fast.
The Cowboys slumped to their third successive defeat to Sydney Roosters on Sunday, their worst losing streak since the opening three rounds last year.
The premiers sit on 28 points with three rounds to play, but their playoffs spot is yet to be confirmed given other results from round 23.
And if Canberra beat Melbourne on Monday night in the nation’s capital, the Cowboys will sit two wins adrift of fourth place with three regular season games remaining.
The Cowboys face a challenging road to the finals, which they will start by hosting the unpredictable Warriors before travelling to Belmore Sports Ground to face Canterbury the week after.
In the final round they’ll return to Townsville to meet Jarryd Hayne’s Gold Coast.
It wasn’t that long ago the Cowboys were considered top four certainties. But according to superstar Thurston they are struggling simply to make the finals after losing four of their last five games.
“Finals are the furthest thing from my mind,” he said.
“It is about getting confidence back. However we get it, we need it.
“Finals could be out the back door if we don’t fix it quickly.”
The loss of Jake Granville, who is could be out for another three weeks with a broken hand, hurt the Cowboys against the Roosters. Interchange prop Ben Hannant could also be sidelined for three more weeks.
But the Cowboys need more than just their grand-final-winning 17 together.
“We are not urgent enough or mentally tough enough, we need to be better,” Thurston said.
“We need to get around that quick. We need to fight our way of this hole we have dug ourselves, we need to have a look at ourselves.”